How to Deep Clean Dishwasher 4 Easy Steps + DIY

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Your dishwasher gets the dishes clean, so it’s easy to overlook cleaning the dishwasher itself. It is counterintuitive with all that soapy rinse cycles, your automatic dishwater could still use the occasional cleaning.

Keeping a dishwasher clean helps make sure your dishwasher runs efficiently by preventing buildup. If you are planning on cleaning all the corners of your dish washer by hand, it could be messy work.

Instead, you can use a probiotic dishwasher cleaner:
Frigidaire 10FFPROD02 Ready Clean Probiotic Dishwasher Cleaner, 6 Treatments When it’s time to deep clean the dishwasher, you can use a probiotic dishwasher cleaner that will get into the hard to reach areas. In the evening, pour the packet onto the bottom of your dishwasher. Run a rinse cycle and then leave it inside the dishwasher overnight. In the morning, you can enjoy your fresh dishwasher. You can maintain the freshness if your dishwasher by doing this once a month.

Read on to find out more about the easy ways on how to deep clean a dishwasher. In this article, we’ll touch on the best ways that get dishwashers cleaned properly, including how to clean by hand and DIY solutions.

how to clean dishwasher

How to Deep Clean Dishwasher

When the time comes for a deep clean, you need a game plan to make sure you aren’t elbowing suds for hours. Regular maintenance cleaning will cut down the time, but many people prefer to wait until they notice the dishwasher isn’t functioning, or smelling, like it used to. Perhaps, the dishes aren’t so sparkly and spotless anymore! Here’s a guide on how to deep clean your dishwasher.

Step 1. Cleaning the dishwasher drain

You’ll know it’s time to remove food and dirt from the drain of the dishwasher if the following scenarios happen:

  • if you find that there’s more residue on the dishes than before
  • if your dishwasher has water at the bottom and it isn’t draining. You can press Drain to do a quick drain. However, still do the following check on the drain line to keep it clean.

It is important to know how to clean the dishwasher drain and to unclog the drain. A clogged dishwasher drain line will cause the pump of the washer to not work properly. This would leave more residue on the dishes during the rinse cycle. In worse cases, the dishwasher won’t drain at all.

You can usually find the dishwasher’s drain line under the sink. For this task, you’ll want to use a wrench to uninstall the line. Be prepared with an absorbent cloth and pipe cleaner.

Flexible Drain Brush,Nylon Cleaner Double Ended Elastic Hose Pipe 67-inch
Flexible dishwasher drain cleaning brush with pipe cleaners

Wear a pair of gloves and remove these food particles from the drain. Use a little pipe cleaner to dislodge anything inside. You may find pieces of plastic packaging, bits of glass, or food particles that the dishwasher filter has missed like bits of corn or bone.

Optional: For a deep clean or to remove air gaps in the dishwasher hose, use a flexible drain cleaner to push through the hose and clean the entire thing.

Flexible Dishwasher Cleaning Brush, Sink Snake Drain Cleaning Tool, Vinyl

Then, use the wrench to reinstall the line.

Step 2. Cleaning the dishwasher filters

Most dishwashers come with 2 filters: a fine mesh “basket filter,” and a “screen filter.”

Locate and then turn the filter basket, to pull it out of the dishwasher.

Funmit W10872845 Dishwasher Pump Filter Cup Replacement for Whirlpool Kenmore
Dishwasher filter basket

Take it to the sink and rinse it clean. Remove the hard food particles and use dish soap to get the grease off the fine filter. Use soft sponges or soft cloth so that it does not damage the delicate filter screen.

Tip: Use a drain strainer in the sink
Make sure your sink has a drain strainer to catch any larger hard particles. This helps prevent your sink’s drain pipes from clogging. Any drain catcher will do, however, a simple basket you can get on a discount is better because it’s easy to clean. It’s also easy to replace, although you will find that it doesn’t wear out that easily.

Next, remove the screen filter that is located under the filter basket. You may have to wiggle it to remove it from the edges holding it in place.

WPW10463906 Dishwasher Screen Filter W10463906 W10195360 for Whirlpool
Dishwasher screen filter

Fill the sink or large bucket with warm water and dish soap and let the screen filter soak for 5 minutes. Rinse it off.

Then, reinstall the screen filter making sure it is fit snugly. Place the filter basket into the hole and turn it. Check for a snug fit because loose filters can get dislodged during a wash cycle. That causes your “cleaned” dishes to stay dirty and possibly break your dishwasher filters so that you will need to replace with new filters.

Tip: Find out if the dishwasher filters need to be replaced
If your dishwasher hasn’t been cleaning dishes correctly, you may find at this step that you need to replace it with new filters. Notice any cracks in the filters or if it won’t stay screwed in snugly anymore. Replacing the filter basket and/or screen filter will likely help your dishwasher perform well again.

Step 3

To continue deep cleaning your dishwasher, you can use a probiotic dishwasher cleaner or a dishwasher cleaning tablet, or you can also use a cup of vinegar.

The purpose of these cleaners is to remove grease buildup, and any hard water deposits. That would eliminate the odor-causing bacteria hiding under the buildup and help your dishwasher run efficiently.

The great thing about dishwasher cleaners is that it cleans where you can’t see. That includes the pump, valve, and recirculation hoses. Not to mention how tedious it would be to manually scrub all the crevices and wire parts of the cleaning racks.

Using a probiotic dishwasher cleaner

This method will clean the hard to reach areas in the dishwasher to get rid of odor, grease and hard water build up with just a rinse cycle. However, do this at the end of the day because you’ll need to leave it overnight.

First, take a packet and pour the liquid into the bottom of the dishwasher. Leave it there for a minute to activate.

Set the dishwasher on a rinse cycle. Then, leave the dishwasher closed overnight. You can greet its freshness in the morning!

Using a dishwasher cleaning tablet

Designed to be used like a regular dishwasher pod, this method is the easiest to use. You can even choose to run it during a load of dishes.

Place the dishwasher cleaning tablet in the detergent tray.

If the dishwasher has a lot of buildup, like perhaps you haven’t been cleaning it monthly, then you can put a second tablet at the bottom of the dishwasher.

Finally, run a Normal cleaning cycle.

Vinegar method

Take a cup of vinegar and put it in your dishwasher before running it. Make sure that you use white vinegar.

If there is any dirt left in the dishwasher’s rack, you will can remove it with a brush. If there is any strong stain, use soapy water to remove it.

Note: It is better not to use bleach or any strong cleaning product that might discolor your dishwasher.

Step 4

If you want to continue deep cleaning your dishwasher, you can clean the bottom part of your dishwasher with baking soda.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the bottom that will remove any unwanted odor from your dishwasher and make it smell fresh.

Following the above-mentioned steps will make your cleaning process easy and fast. It is a good idea to clean your dishwasher once a month as a regular maintenance cleaning schedule.

4 Tips To Make Cleaning Your Dishwasher Easier

Cleaning your dishwasher can be easier. Check out the following tips. 

Load the dishwasher at least once every 1-2 days.

Doing regular loads means that your plates aren’t left out for too long. This minimizes the buildup in your drains.  

Remove packaging pieces and hard foods if possible.

Sometimes, pieces of packaging and hard foods like corn gets stuck on your dishes. Clear plastics like small pieces of saran wrap can be hard to see.

If it is dried on, leave the dishes in warm water while you load the other dishes. You will find that the dried on foods are easy to rinse off after a few minutes.

This will prevent food pieces from getting stuck in the pipes and also make your dishwasher’s cycle more efficient. 

Clean the dishwasher filter on a weekly basis.

The most common parts that need cleaning are the filter basket and the screen filter. For most dishwashers, you can find it at the bottom. You can unscrew the filter basket and rinse off the large particles. Rub dish soap on it to get grease off of it. Use a soft small brush to get in the corners. You can remove the large screen filter, too. This one is harder to clean, so you can use a scrub brush and cleaning vinegar to clean it.

This video shows you how to clean the dishwasher filter.

Deep clean on a monthly basis with a dishwasher cleaning tablet.

When you use a dishwasher cleaning tablet, you won’t need to scour from top to bottom by hand. Do this once a month to deep clean your dishwasher. You can place a dishwasher cleaning tablet in with the usual load of dirty dishes. The tablet gets rid of funky smells in the dishwasher. It’s a good way to deep clean your dishwasher if you’ve just bought a house that came with one. Find out how to deep clean a used dishwasher in the next section of this article.

How to Clean Dishwasher by Hand

Clean the removable parts first

Start by removing the parts and individually cleaning them. That includes the top and bottom racks, the filters, and the spray arms. All of these parts will have bits of food and grease residue lodged in them, so soak or scrub gently with a soft-bristle brush dipped in a dish soap solution.

If your dishwasher has stainless steel fittings, be sure to use diluted vinegar to tackle hard water stains or going for a steel-specific cleaner. Using strong vinegar as a cleaner could lead to rusting.

Getting into the built-in crevices

When it comes to cleaning dishwashers’ built-in parts like the drain and the detergent dispenser, you need a way to access the deeper nooks and crannies. 

If you have an old toothbrush lying around, give it a bob or two in your cleaning solution and brush away. Toothbrushes also come in handy when dealing with lodged food bits. You can sweep the gunk onto a cleaning towel or paper towel and dispose of it without touching it.

Rubber seals and trims

A commonly overlooked spot is the rubber sealing along the edges of your dishwasher. Your plates and utensils might not come in direct contact with it, but once you start the cycle, the dirty, sudsy water whooshes into all the surfaces of your dishwasher, rubber trimmings included.

For these, dip a microfiber cleaning cloth into your dish soap solution and wipe the edges and rubber trim in firm but slow sweeps along the rubber seal. 

If this is your first time cleaning the edges of the dishwasher, you may be surprised how much grime gets collected there.

A hot cycle

Lastly, run a cycle with hot water with a dishwasher cleaning tablet or with about 1 to 2 cups of vinegar in a bowl.

DIY Dishwasher Cleaner: How Do You Make a Dishwasher Cleaner? 

Along the lines of how to clean dishwashers, another handy trick is knowing how to make your own dishwasher cleaner. 

You could use store-bought dishwasher cleaning tablets and get good results but when you make your own cleaners, you get an additional backup in case you run out of tablets and are unable to get a new pack fast enough. 

So, to make a DIY dishwasher cleaner, there is a simple answer: vinegar and baking soda but in separate cycles. If it’s tempting to combine their cycles when you’re short for time — together, they will foam up and might even cover your kitchen in suds. 

To give you context, mixing baking soda with vinegar is the main idea of a science fair volcano.

Instead, start the first cycle with only vinegar (2 cups) in a bowl on the top rack and follow it up with a shorter second cycle where you’ve sprinkled 2 teaspoons of baking soda onto the floor of the dishwasher.

This won’t work against some types of mineral buildup, but it is leagues better than a clogged, dirty dishwasher. 

What Happens if You Don’t Clean Your Dishwasher?

Regularly cleaning your dishwasher can help prevent the buildup of limescale, especially if the water you source is calcium-rich.

Then, there’s the matter of residue. The working principle of dishwashers is to combine soap and water at high speeds so that the frothy water can remove grease and food stains from the dishes and utensils they are meant to clean.

However, grease also loves smooth surfaces like glass and stainless steel. Once the drying is complete, there could be a thin layer of food or water residue. Again, this is especially true for hard water. Over time, this residue can build up and reduce the cleaning power spray, which makes more residue stick to your kitchenware.

Secondly, there’s the matter of food debris. The food that’s washed off your plates are not always water-soluble, like pieces of vegetables or plastic packaging. And more often than not, it isn’t small enough to fit through the drain holes. If not cleaned regularly, your dishwasher’s drain will get clogged with tiny bits of food or debris.

Dishwasher Cleaning Tablets vs. Liquid Solutions

When cleaning a dishwasher, there are two types of detergents: the dishwasher cleaning tablet or the cleaning liquid. Detergent powders are another available option, but they require additional variables like salt and rinse aids to fully control the hardness of the water, which can be a hit or miss.

The liquid is more economical between the cleaning tablets and the liquid solution. You can choose to pour precisely the amount of solution that corresponds to the size of your load and thus can make one bottle last significantly longer.

But dishwasher cleaning tablets provide far more value for their worth. Unlike most general-use cleaning liquids, the tablets also work against limescale and mineral buildup, which can hamper your washer’s performance if left unaddressed. Yes, tablets are a fixed amount of cleaner you can use in one wash, but you can overcome it by running a cycle with the recommended number of dishes in the dishwasher.

Tablets are also more user-friendly when dealing with dishwasher cleaning protocols. While liquids give you control over the amount of cleaner, they also pose the risk of accidentally pouring more than required.

If you’re still choosing a cleaning method for your dishwasher, tablets are generally a better starting point for you.

Now That You Have A Clean Dishwasher

And there you have it! Now that you’re all read up on how to deep clean dishwashers, you’ll soon find yourself surprised at how easy it is to maintain the hygiene of your lean, mean dishwashing machine.

Rhymes aside, you can now know how to get rid of the dishwasher smell when it starts to smell a bit off in your kitchen.

Here’s to having a pristine, pleasant-smelling, and efficiently-cleaning dishwasher.

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